US consumers are waking up to privacy issues related to smartphone use. About two-thirds of search engine users disapprove of the collection of information on their searches for the purpose of personalizing their future search results and an equal proportion of all internet users disapprove of being tracked for the purpose of getting targeted ads.
Interestingly, the two most popular smartphone platforms treat application data gathering differently. While Apple reviews prospective applications before launching them into its iPhone app store, Google’s open-source Android platform has no such system in place. But while the Android system runs each application separately and explicitly lists the services or data each application accesses, Apple’s iPhone system treats all applications as equal and allows them to access many resources by default.
Until application developers and hardware makers start taking Privacy-By Design” seriously, users must pro-actively protect their privacy. If you have a smartphone and use it to download apps, there’s little you can do to completely lock down your personal information. But there are a number of precautions you can take to ensure minimal risk exposure.
So, here are seven basic basic smartphone privacy tips you can take to cut down on risks:
- Don’t download apps form unknown sources. If you have not heard of an app, read its user reviews. Even better, look it up online and see what has been said about it.
- When possible, opt out of information sharing capabilities.
- Get acquainted with your phone’s GPS features. Most smartphones allow one to adjust which applications have access to GPS. Turn this feature off for all but the most essential of apps.
- On Android: Before you download an app, check its user permissions. This should give you a breakdown of what information the app will access. Ask yourself if a simple game apps really needs to access the contact list?
- For Android: If you’ve opted to “root” (obtain privileged access) your device, be wary of granting apps root access. Doing so grants them complete control over your phone.
- For iPhone: If you have “jailbroken” (circumvented the proprietary programming restrixtions) your phone, be sure to change its root password. You can find guides online, or else get a trusted technician to do so for you.
- If you are no longer using an app, uninstall it.
While there is no easy way to figure out which apps are the riskiest, paid apps tend to pass less data on than free ones. Remember, “free” content is usually monetized in other ways, most often by selling user data.